Retire To Istanbul Turkey: The Surprising Truth

If you are considering relocating to Turkey or retiring there, Istanbul is among the best cities in the world to consider. There is an excellent quality of life, very affordable, lots to see and do and most importantly very safe. In this article, we’ll try to answer some of the most common questions you might have about relocating to Istanbul, Turkey.

Here are all the questions you may have about Retiring to Istanbul:

  • Is Istanbul a good place to retire?
  • Is it safe to live in Istanbul?
  • How much does it cost to live in Istanbul?
  • Is food expensive in Istanbul?
  • How is healthcare in Turkey?
  • Can foreigners own property in Turkey?
  • What to do in Istanbul?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these topics to see why other foreigners and retired people want to reside in Istanbul.

Is Istanbul a good place to retire?

Population: 15.5 millions
Currency: Turkish Lira
Language: Turkish

Temperature: 5°C to 30°C / 41°F to 86°F

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and is the country’s principal tourism, economic, and cultural center. The temperature ranges from 5°C to 30°C. Summers are typically hot and humid, whereas winters are typically cold and wet, but with only a few nights of snowfall.

In Istanbul, long and enjoyable dinners are quite normal. Breakfast and dinner are usually shared with friends and family members with the kitchen being the heart of the home. The house owners do not rush to clean the table especially after feasts where visitors are hosted. They enjoy long conversations at the tables and they even listen to the music and have a good time until late.

Istanbul has a significant expat community so you may have a terrific social life and meet people from all over the world. Thanks to the many historical landmarks and tourist attractions due to this being the place where east meets west, there is always something new to learn. Another huge draw is the diverse cuisine. In Istanbul, you can buy almost any type of food and eat your way across the world.

The cost of transportation in Turkey is low thanks to the consolidated transportation network. The Istanbul Kart rechargeable transport card can be purchased from newspaper kiosks near the train, light rail, ferry and funicular (cable car) stops around town. You then charge it with any amount of money you want. Each trip costs roughly 50 cents USD, but form of transport will cost you an extra fee. So basically if you swap from the different types of transport above each one will cost another 50 cents USD.  You can stay on the light rail around town to get to most things.

Tourist Information Link:

Is it safe to live in Istanbul?

When it comes to crime, Istanbul is relatively safe, and the largest hazards are the political climate in Turkey.  In 2016 a military coup was attempted but the people of the whole town just went out and blocked all major roads and bridges and the power returned to the politicians.  

The local people proved their power and they chose with their actions that they wanted stability and democratic rule and not a dictatorship. I have been there a few times since then and it gets better every time.

That isn’t to suggest that petty crimes don’t exist in Istanbul: the most common types of petty crime are snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging.  This is similar to most large cities around the world where you just make sure you don’t walk down dark alleys at night flashing your cash.

Mugging and handbag snatching have decreased significantly, thanks to a newly created camera network that monitors Istanbul’s streets 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   Another piece of advice that may be useful in Istanbul is to exercise caution when driving, as people in this city are known for being aggressive and simply disregarding traffic signs, resulting in numerous traffic accidents. Apart from that, transportation in Turkey is generally safe and efficient.

It’s a city with a liberal bent. People stay out late here, and there is a decent nightlife scene. It’s enjoyable, and the people are pleasant. However, as in most cities throughout the world, being alert of your environment will assist you in remaining secure. Pickpockets, beggars on the street, and cons are much less likely to influence a cautious visitor.

LINK: Turkey Travel Advisory

PRO TIP: Don’t leave your credit card on the bar with a tab as in any country they can overcharge or supply top shelf drinks that you will have to pay for.  Pay for drinks, especially in night clubs and bars when you receive them as it is always the safest thing to do.  Know the prices of what you order and don’t be afraid to ask beforehand.

How much does it cost to live in Istanbul?

Istanbul’s cost of living is on average 60 percent lower than that of a United States city like Washington DC. Istanbul’s rent is 76 percent less expensive than in the United States.

To reside in Istanbul in a manner comparable to that of the United States, you’ll require at least $849 USD each month. Like with any country you can pay a lot more or even less depending on your lifestyle choice.

The following is an example of a typical monthly budget for two persons living in Istanbul, Turkey:

Rent for a 3 Bedroom House$656 USD / ₺5,883 kr
Rent for a 1 Bedroom Flat$341 USD / ₺3,058 kr
Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Rates)$59 USD / ₺529 kr
Internet$14 USD / ₺126 kr
Maid Service (Per Hour)$5 USD / ₺45 kr
Groceries$150 USD / ₺224 kr
Dining Out (2 people) For 4 times$40 USD / ₺359 kr
Fitness or Social Club Membership for Two People$50 USD / ₺448 kr
TOTAL MONTHLY EXPENSES (1 bed)$659 USD/ ₺4,789 kr
TOTAL MONTHLY EXPENSES (3 bed)$974 USD/ ₺7,614 kr

NOTE: These rental rates were for the city center of Istanbul and can be significantly lower if you are renting in the suburbs.

Is food expensive in Istanbul?

If you avoid the tourist traps, Istanbul can be a very low-cost destination. We advise you to avoid eating in the fine dining restaurants because it will be more expensive than eating in the local restaurants in the city.

Groceries are very inexpensive as well in Istanbul in case you are longing for a home cooked meal.  As I well know the easiest way to blow a budget when travelling long term is to eat out every night.  In Istanbul you may very well be tempted to do this though due to the low prices.

Here is an overview of the cost of groceries in Istanbul:

Milk1 Liter / 1 quart$0.5 USD
White Bread1 Loaf$0.8 USD
Eggs1 Dozen$1.5 USD
Beef1 kg/ 2.2 pounds$10 USD
Chicken Breasts1 kg/ 2.2 pounds$6 USD
Beer12$4 USD
Wine1 Liter / 1 quart$7 USD

NOTE: these prices were only valid at the making of this article and check the grocery websites below for current pricing. 

Look for the terms Pazar, süpermarket, and hipermarket when looking on Google Maps. The size of the business varies, with the market (Pazar) being a tiny local store or little supermarket and increasing in size from there.

Here are some websites of grocery stores for you to look at:

  • CarrefourSA – Most expensive but great produce
  • Dia – Cheaper and what I use for day to day when in town

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Search for the names of the supermarkets above on google maps when booking your accommodation as the walk with heaps of groceries is one of the daily pains if it is too far.  There are also heaps of other independent supermarkets around as well as corner stores to pick things up.  The pro travel tip is just to be close to one.

Our favourite food when in Istanbul is the fresh turkish delight that you can get off the main streets for way cheaper and also turkish pide.  Here are my favorite shops for those when I am in town.

Turkish Pide: Yöremiz Pide Lahmacun – They make the dough fresh daily and you will watch them throw it around and cook it in a wood fired oven.  You will also see the local restaurants slipping in things to be cooked by the fire and ordering for their customers as well.

Turkish Delight: Turkish Delight Candys Nuts – As you walk around all the main shopping areas you will see heaps of places that sell Turkish Delight but this little place is a lot cheaper.

Self Serve 24 hour Restaurant: If you are heading on the bus to the new airport and you want a meal before you go check out the Pehlivan Restaurant.  It will fill you with a good meal at a great price and you won’t have to worry about the sometimes awful airline food.

TIP: The Turkish delight store and the restaurant are just around the corner from the bus stop for the airport bus in Taksim Square so it is great to hit up on the way in or out of town.

How is healthcare in Turkey?

Turkey’s healthcare has improved dramatically over the years, to the point where it is now the region’s largest leader in medical services. Every year, Turkey handles a large number of international clients from Europe as well as the Middle East as a specialized healthcare destination with outstanding technology and hospitals. 

Turkey has continued to pursue medical excellence with experienced doctors in order to lay the foundation for providing high-quality patient care. The healthcare system aspires to be a strong competitor with countries achieving excellence not only regionally but globally.

Expats who have lived in Turkey for at least a year can join SGK (Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu), the Turkish Government Health Coverage. Although the monthly payments rise on a regular basis, they cover the entire family and were 618.00TL (69 USD) per month in January 2019. SGK can be used to help pay for some treatments at private clinics as well as to cover admissions at public hospitals.

LINK: Turkish Public Healthcare

Can foreigners own property in Istanbul?

Yes, you can buy property in Istanbul in cities but there are certain rules for rural property and land. Once you have decided to buy or look at property in Turkey the local real estate agent can walk you through the process.  Make sure you get proper legal advice for any settlement prior to handing over any money to make sure it is all in order.

The neighborhoods in Istanbul are completely distinct from one another, as is the price range, which varies greatly depending on the neighborhood. It’s wise to take a city tour before deciding where you want to live. 

Whether it’s a humble flat on the Asian side or a beautiful property in Arnavutköy with a view of the Bosphorus. Also, keep in mind that the cheapest properties are always on the outskirts of town, and that prices rise in trendy neighborhoods and along the Bosphorus.

Here are a list of prominent realtors in Istanbul:

Check our next article and discover Retire In Turkey: 11 Pros And Cons.

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